Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Budget Proposal Available For Review

Well, neighbors, the proposed 2009/2010 budget is posted on the city web site (HERE). I suspect many of you will rush to download all 305 pages so you can go through it line by line. Only kidding... but I did download it and have made one fast pass through it. Yike
s! It will be available for review at the Costa Mesa libraries and at City Hall the end of this week.

I'm not going to try to cover everything in this budget, but this chart - borrowed from the budget - shows an overview of the proposal - a reduction of more than 18% from the previous year.

*(We had a little snafu... seems the original chart I plucked from the budget proposal was incorrect. So, with the blessing of the CM Finance Staff, we borrowed another one that is correct. Unfortunately, it reflects an even more dismal situation - an 18% decrease in spending, rather than the 15% previously shown.)

There are some assumptions on which this budget proposal was based, the largest of which is the assumption that the labor organizations will agree to a 5% reduction in salaries and a significant reduction in overtime costs. At the time the budget proposal was published those negotiations were in progress. If they fail, then even greater cuts must be made to balance the budget.


It is truly ironic that, on the very night that City Manager Allan Roeder presented the City Council with the budget proposal they rejected some new revenue sources proposed by the Fire Department totaling over $1 million. So, before the budget proposal even hit their hands they'd made it just that much more difficult to come up with a balanced budget! Talk about short-sighted!

The following is the list of specific items and programs earmarked for reduction or deletion in the Budget Presentation:

* Close Downtown Recreation Center pool from October to April.

* Elimination of funding for planting of 250 trees, park and open space clean up crew, weekly median hardscape maintenance, fertilization of median landscape and turf. This will further reduce emergency tree response and removal.

* Reduction of traffic enforcement & accident investigations; possible decreased response times related to Traffic Operations.

* Reduction of small tool, materials and equipment repair related to graffiti removal.

* Loss of Cold Case Detective; Likely increased workload to Street Crimes Unit.

* Suspension of Police Department Recruitment Program.

* Significant reduction in funding for Water Quality including consulting assistance and termination of catch basin entrance lid and screen repair/replacement program. The combination of these actions along with the reduced level of inspections to be completed on an annual basis and will have the potential to put the City out of compliance with the NPDES permit.

* Eliminate most weekend & after business hour video production programs - not including cable casting of City council meetings.

* Partial reallocation of Engineering employees salaries, from the General Fund to the Measure M Fund, will reduce the Measure M fund balance available for construction of street improvements and therefore a fewer number of streets will receive improvements.

* Elimination of paving 2 residential streets, and reduction of approximately 750 tons of asphalt.

* Reduction in the traffic signal maintenance account will impact the City's ability to respond to knockdowns and unexpected repair items.

* Reduction of right of way weed control by 10%, resulting in more visible weeds along City streets, alleys and sidewalks. Decrease alley and right of way maintenance funding by 50%, possibly resulting in citizen complaints due to weeds and debris in alleys and in un-landscaped areas.

* Elimination of all turf and landscape fertilization resulting in a decline in aesthetic quality of parks and landscape and reduce turf healing ability in high traffic areas. This also includes a reduction in the contract maintenance of TeWinkle Lake, elimination of the provision of the "Mutt Mitts" in all City parks and routine replacement of park furniture and related amenities.

* Virtual elimination of all building repairs and major maintenance items such as termite fumigation, painting, plumbing & electrical repair and related property upkeep.

* Postponement of most scheduled vehicle and equipment replacement except for police patrol vehicles.

* Postponement of needed computer hardware & software replacement.

* Elimination of all non-mandatory training and professional development for all personnel.

* Reductions in Youth & Family programs, Mobile Recreation program, Youth Basketball and Football, Concerts in the Parks and suspension of Youth in government and reduced funding for the Cultural Arts and Historic Preservation Committees.

* Reduction of turf mowing to two (2) times a month in all parks and City buildings except for sports fields which will remain weekly - resulting in a decline in aesthetic quality of parks and overgrown appearance.

* Reduction in hours of the assigned part time staff overseeing contracts with Fairview Park users groups, OC Model Engineers and Harbor Soaring Society. Reduction in assistance given to Parks Project Manager regarding construction projects, performing research and writing council and Park Commission reports. Reduction in oversight of the Phase 1, 17-acre Riparian Habitat 5 year maintenance and monitoring as required by the Department of Fish and Game and US Wildlife Service. Phase 1 completed in June 2009.

As you can see, there are many programs affected that will create some very significant lifestyle changes for many residents. There's already a fledgling grassroots effort to "save" the Mutt Mitts! Good grief!

Roeder summed up his budget message with the following paragraph: (emphasis is mine)

"If substantially approved as submitted and consistent with the 10 point Management Budget Strategy, the City will lose over 100,000 man hours over the course of the fiscal year. The proposed staffing levels reflect those of almost 25 years ago while serving a larger population today. This cannot happen without impacting the quality and quantity of service to the public. It would be illusory to suggest otherwise and disingenuous to the public we serve. At the same time, it is allowing Costa mesa to keep local taxes among the lowest of any City in Orange County and among the most business friendly cities anywhere in California. The future success of the community will rest with a well reasoned balance between the need for services and the desire for public amenities in combination with fiscal restraint and an equitable tax structure for all."

The schedule of events remains the same:

Tuesday, June 2 - Presentation of the Budget Proposal to the City Council
Tuesday, June 9 - City Council Budget Study Session - Conference Room 1A, City Hall, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, June 9 - Tentatively scheduled adjourned Council Meeting following the study session. This will permit the council to provide direction as necessary to the staff.
Thursday, June 11 - Public Budget Workshop, Conference Room 1A, City Hall. Time to be determined. (Note, the city announced in a press release at noon today that this meeting will begin at 6 p.m.)
Tuesday, June 16 - Budget approval by City Council at their regularly scheduled meeting.
July 1, 2009 - The deadline for a balanced budget to be approved by the City Council.


Now is the time to contact your council members to let them know how you feel about this budget and give them your suggestions for improvements and other potential cuts. If you don't speak up now then hold your peace later when these budget cuts personally affect you - you had your chance to be heard.



Anonymous rob dickson said...

Geoff, thanks for the breakdown - I too downloaded and skimmed the entire budget.

What LEAPS out at me, and what I am increasingly frustrated with, is everyone - notably including you in this post (an odd departure from earlier posts and Pilot commentary) - giving the employee associations a pass and blaming the council for this.

You provided the list of program cuts and service reductions that will IMPACT RESIDENTS, and then took the Council to task for shelving fire and EMS fees that were universally unpopular, yet you failed to call out the real villains here - the employee associations.

Lets be brutally honest and cut the political nonsense. This issue is far beyond anybody's disdain for individual politicians. This is nothing short of a total departure from business as usual for the City. Layoffs, reduced fire staffing levels, slower police response times, delayed or deferred maintenance, citizen-funded facilities and services sitting idle or eliminated, run down public areas, etc.

Why are we in this mess? Because the economy tanked - NOT because Mansoor or any other Council member is a poor manager.

Revenues are down - EXPENSES ARE NOT. That is economics 101. The biggest expenditure we have - salaries and benefits - has not decreased at all, in fact it INCREASED by $6.4million dollars in the last budget cycle alone.

The 2006-2007 budget is not posted online, but I'm absolutely positive that salaries and benefits increased then as well, and probably every other year for a long time back.

The economic turn-around was very swift, and did not take into account municipal budget cycles. While Mr. Roeder and the Council have been dismantling services for residents, the employee associations have been hididng behind their contracts and demanding more proof of the reality staring everyone down. Shuttered car dealerships, closed businesszes, foreclosed homes, massive job losses, etc. They alone have the power to save jobs and close the budget gap, but they refuse.

Of course the city agreed to the increases in salary and benefits. We have great employees and theyd eserve to be paid well and have great benefits. The current economic reality, however, requires significant concessions on their part.

The city has given raises in good times, and now the city is asking for concessions in the bad times. Why is that so terrible? When the economy recovers, the employees should get their concessions back and appropriate increases.

That is the way it works in the real world, that must be the way it works for Costa Mesa's municipal government.

Cutting the services to residents that are the reason the city exists in order to maintain generous employee compensation is an outrageous abuse of the public trust. It really is just that simple.

6/04/2009 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Rob, tell my how you feel about the budget... :-) The reason for my change of tone is because the employee associations HAVE been meeting with the city, trying to hammer out an accord. This budget proposal ASSUMES that there WILL be a 5% reduction in salaries and reduction in the overtime numbers. In fact, the current problems are, at least in part, due to the "management" decisions made by recent council when it came to contract negotiations with the associations. Since neither of us were privy to the negotiations since they are held in closed sessions and no one is supposed to talk about them later, one must assume from their actions that those councils were trying to appease their employees - and times were good, so it was easy to say "yes".

I assume - geez, I hate that word - that you will attend either the study session or the workshop next week, right? The workshop provides a more free-form opportunity to dig into the budget. I'll see you there and we can discuss this in person - if you promise not to yell at me. :-)

By the way, did you note that I modified my post? Yep, the first chart was wrong - is wrong in the proposed budget - so I tossed it and replaced it with an accurate one from a little further down the document.

6/04/2009 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous rob dickson said...

Geoff, I'll see you at the study session if works permits, which it should. I'll have to leave around 6:00 for an appointment. No yelling, I promise - we have mostly agreed on the budget mess, even on TOT - which is irrelevant at this stage.

Yes, the unions have been sitting down and talking, but they have not agreed to anything concrete and Roeder's cautionary statement on page a-2 speaks volumes - it is plainly obvious that no agreement has been reached and the budget is here. That means that the unions HAVE NOT given up anything significant and are still holding us and our municipal services hostage. They ARE willing to sacrifice their own to maintain the vast bulk of their pay and benefits, and they think their paid agent - Katrina Foley - will earn her keep. Her disdainful comment about the lack of perople in the audience was totally uncalled for. I wrote the entire council that afternoon to provide them my comments and let them know that I had intended to be there but could not because of work. Many in the community watch it live, as I did later.

Katrina's whole tone throughout this process has been anti-resident, pro-employee and I believe the public will remember this. It is sincerely disappointing to see her sell out so thoroughly - I used to have tremendous respect for her willingness to stand up for what she thought was right for the resdients and businesses, even when she was on the losing end of many votes. I certainly won't for vote for her again if given the opportunity.

With a huge hole to fill, the fact that the unions are forcing the city to cut so much when they could have simply given back the $6.4 million in RAISES/INCREASES is infuriating and has erned my disdain and opposition. We did not make this an us vs. them situtaion - THEY did.

You are correct about the council's management decisions with regard to negotiations with the unions. They ceded too much power to them and were too quick to appease them. That we are in this situation - virtually held hostage with 75% of our budget controlled by them, is the council's fault. Now it is time to fix it. Either get rid of the unions or eliminate their power to put us in this situation.

I'm not sure why we need unions in Costa Mesa's municipal government - they sure don't seem to be helping anybody right now.

Thanks again! The new chart is even more dire! 18% yikes!

6/04/2009 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Rob, as you might expect, I disagree with your assessment of Foley in this matter. She's the one voice up there trying to do what we elected them to do - effectively lead this city. The rest seem not to comprehend the dire straits we are in. Mansoor, in particular, can't get beyond his "NO TAX" mantra. He's got his mind made up and seems not to comprehend most of what's going on with the budget, even though he's dealt with many of them by this time in his career.

In past years they could rely on the fund balance pot to bail them out - not so this year. The current proposal anticipates using just over $4 million of slightly more than $9 million available. This year - 08/09 - we began planning to use just over $6 million, adjusted that upward to around $11 million mid-year and will actually spend close to $15 million on this budget.

This new budget is only a starting point - a slimey rock from which the city will jump onto the next one, then the next one, trying to get across the stream. There are many unknowns - variables that must be considered and that will affect the budget outcome - that make this journey very precarious. Revenue sources are anything but predictable this year, for example.

I will not be at the study session, but will be at the workshop on the 11th.

Thanks for the comments. Your opinion is always welcome, no matter how wrong you are. :-) :-)

6/04/2009 11:25:00 AM  
Anonymous rob dickson said...

Geoff, I'm just glad you allow me to post my commentray demonstrating how wrong you are! :-)

Seriously, though - my criticsim of Foley is well-founded and brought on not by philosophical differences in opinion, but by her words and actions. If she were just advocating more taxes, fine, but she is not. She stated, emphatically, that she would go line-by-line through the budget and cut everything possible in order to prevent any city employee layoffs. I can go back to that video and get you the exact time she made these statements. Her clearly stated priorities are to the employees, not the resdients or businesses. That isn't my take on it, that is what she said.

Then, when discussing the EMS fee proposal, her disdainful and dismissive comments toward the public and the many speakers who DID show up and speak, not to mention the many who wrote - letters and e-mails she had - was inexcusable.

6/04/2009 11:52:00 AM  
Anonymous rob dickson said...

A clarification in fairness to Katrina Foley - she was not dismissive or disdainful to the members of the public who addressed the Council 6/2/09 at all. I was referring to her comments when discussing the notice issue with her fellow councilmembers.

6/04/2009 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Byron de Arakal said...

Let me throw a personal note into this, because it isn't all about the employee associations.

My son, Lee, has been a part time video production assistant with CMTV for something on the order of 4 years. He's expecting that he'll be the guy to catch the ax with respect to the "elimination of most weekend and afterhour video production" recommendation. But, he gets it and isn't pouting. In fact, it looks like he may have lined up a gig with the City of Irvine. CM is losing a bright and talented kid.

Still, it is unfortunate - albeit reality - that city's part timers have no voice.

That's why I appreciate that Katrina was looking out for the employees as much as I'm disappointed that the council had nearly zero interest in looking at the revenue side. I loathe taxes as much as the next guy. But at least hold a couple of townhalls or survey the populace to gauge public sentiment on new revenues before dismissing them out of hand. The the fact of the matter is municipalities are at the bottom of the food chain and have to fund themselves somehow. If they're unwilling to bring Costa Mesa's revenue generating structure into the 21st Century, where do they suppose the funding will come from?

6/04/2009 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dickson said...


With all due and sincere respect - you exemplify the mindset that is so frustrating. Katrina's job is NOT to look out for the employees!!! That is what city management and the employee associations do. The council's job is to represent the residents and businesses.

"Looking out for the employees" is totally out of place in any case! The cuts that have taken place so far are all from the 25% of the budget that is NOT employee related, and the employees have enjoyed repeated increases in salaries and benefits recently. Those increases have been appropriate and deserved - no question at all, but we have already cut everything BUT salaries and benefits to the bone.

To close this gap in this economic climate we have two options - layoffs or reductions in salaries and benefits.

We're taking 18%, almost $26.7 million - cuts in salaries and benefits must be made.

TOT, EMS fees, fees for proceeding through an intersection, fees for attending a City Council meeting, etc. won't close that gap.

No matter how you cut it, right now it is all about the employee associations.

I'm not kidding when I say that I don't want one CM employee to lose their job. I hope your son keeps his job with CM, we really do need all of our employees. Losing any of them will only hurt the city as a whole.

6/04/2009 02:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Byron de Arakal said...

Well, Rob, that you believe the ONLY two options available to the City are layoffs and/or reductions in salaries and benefits is equally frustrating. So, let's drink to each other's frustration.


6/04/2009 05:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dickson said...


Thanks - point taken.

What I mean is that those are the only two options available now, and even in the next half year. New revenue sources won't get even close to bridging this gap, and would honestly be an outrageous burden on residents, businesses and visitors in this economic environment.

At some point, unless the economy springs back really soon, we have to bring salaries and benefits in line with revenues. Even if we raise every category of revenue recommended recently - TOT, business license, EMS subscription, CMFD fees, etc., we're still talking huge gaps.

A personal note as well - I work for a fantastic company that has been around longer than the City of Costa Mesa. When the economic tsunami hit, management made tough choices in order for us to weather the storm. Employees gave up FAR more than 5%, and our retirement accounts will take many years to recover. I still have a great job with a company I love, and am grateful that management is focused on remaining viable and thriving in the long run. That is reality.

Personally, it really bothers me that municipal employee unions think they should be immune from an economic situation like the one we are in now.

I don't think that CM employees should be forced to deal with fluctuating revenues - they need stability like everyone else. Normal ups and down should be planned for, but this situation is not normal.

6/04/2009 08:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Byron de Arakal said...


You're a bright guy and the city's lucky that you are paying attention and participating. I completely agree with you that whatever new revenues/taxes the city might consider would not make much of a dent in the current deficit. But they'd at least make some dent...and one that would be far more significant than the empty political posing perpetrated by the council when they voted for reductions in their own...errr, future councilmember's...stipends.

Let me again touch on my appreciation for Katrina's looking out for City employees. You mentioned that wasn't her job, but that representing the residents and businesses of Costa Mesa is. I would offer that her job in representing the residents and businesses of Costa Mesa includes establishing fiscal and personnel policies to ensure the public's receipt of quality services from its government. And, of course, it's the city employees who provide the public services to the residents and businesses she represents.

6/05/2009 09:22:00 PM  

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